FAA: Furloughs Kick in Sunday For Air Traffic Controllers

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air traffic controller furloughs airports
Susan Walsh/APFAA Administrator Michael Huerta (foreground) and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a joint statement Thursday that the FAA is conducting "a robust safety review" associated with tower closures resulting from congressional spending cuts.
By JOAN LOWY

WASHINGTON -- The public should expect flight delays as furloughs kick in Sunday for air traffic controllers, although the effects may be felt unevenly from airport to airport, the head of the Federal Aviation Administration said Thursday.

Without the controller furloughs, FAA officials could find no way to cut $637 million from the agency's budget as required by automatic, across-the-board spending cuts approved by Congress, said Michael Huerta, the agency's administrator. The FAA has estimated there could be flight delays of about 90 minutes during peak periods.

Likewise, the agency sees no way around closing 149 air traffic control towers at small airports that are currently operated under contract for the FAA, Huerta told the Senate Appropriations Committee's transportation subcommittee. The tower closings have been delayed until June 15.

The furloughs and tower closings were designed "to minimize impacts on the maximum number of travelers," he said. But he acknowledged, "We're forced to choose between very unattractive options."

A key Republican lawmaker accused the White House of deliberately trying to upset the public.

"They want to cause the most pain to the American people out there so they will put pressure on Congress to back away from sequestration [spending cuts]," Rep. Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania told a transportation gathering hosted by the National Journal news magazine. Shuster chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

"I believe [President Barack Obama] is instructing his agencies to do things that inflict the most pain on the most people. This should be laid right at the president's feet," Shuster said.

The FAA's 47,000 employees -- including nearly 15,000 controllers -- are scheduled for one furlough day every other week through Sept. 30. That will reduce the number of controller hours on duty and pay by 10 percent, Huerta said.

In order to maintain safety with fewer controllers, takeoffs and landings will have to be less frequent, and planes will have to be spaced farther apart when they are in the air, he said. That reduces the efficiency of the air traffic system, creating delays, he said.


The impacts may differ depending upon the airport, Huerta said. At Chicago's busy O'Hare International Airport, for example, it's possible there won't be a full complement of controllers to staff the airport's two control towers, requiring one tower to be shutdown. Without a second tower, one of the airport's runways will have to shut down, reducing takeoffs and landings, he said. Most airports only operate one control tower.

The employee furloughs will save an estimated $200 million, and the tower closings will save $25 million, Huerta said.

A spokesman for the union that represents air traffic controllers said the ramifications of the furloughs are still unclear.

"We don't know with any specificity what's going to happen until this goes down," Doug Church of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association said. "It is not a good thing for aviation to take away staffing at any level."

But air travelers may get a break on the ground. A senior Transportation Security Administration official said Thursday he doesn't expect furloughs for his agency, which staffs airport security across the nation. And, he said, longer wait times at checkpoints have not yet materialized as a result of so-called sequestration, as Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano warned last month.

Congress included additional money for security officers in a budget bill for the remainder of the 2013 fiscal year, and long wait times have been averted for now, TSA Deputy Administrator John Halinski told a congressional panel. Obama signed the budget bill last month.

Halinski cautioned that even with the extra funding, travelers may see lines and wait times increase during busy travel periods.

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Associated Press writer Richard Lardner contributed to this report.


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omgnojobs

OBAMY HAS RECORD UNEMPLOYMENT N RECORD FORECLOSURES FOR THE LAST 5 PLUS YEARS N NOW IS LETTING ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS "BREAK" INTO AMERICA TO BOMB AMERICAN CITIZENS ON OUR STREETS .

April 19 2013 at 5:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
John Perry

This is simply obama playing the Americans for the fools he thinks we are.

He will stoop to any depths to convince us he can't stop his deficit spending.

He cares for NO ONE!!!!!
Only his political agenda and to hell with anyone who gets hurt.

April 19 2013 at 1:19 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to John Perry's comment
omgnojobs

OBAMY TAXED THE "HELL" OUT OF ALL MIDDLE CLASS N THEN GAVE HIMSELF N CONGRESS PAY "RAISES" THEN WENT GOLFING ON TAX PAYERS DIME WITH HIS MIDDLE FINGER IN THE AIR. ! 4 MORE YEARS OF THIS CRAP NONSENSE . !

April 19 2013 at 4:58 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
mgrtec1

There is enough dead wood in Washington to furlough half the civil service and all elected officials staff members to save more than enough to pay for more critical services such as flight controllers, security personnel, etc... Maybe Obama should furlough some of his staff first. Then go to congress and the senate and start furloughing their staff.

April 19 2013 at 12:41 AM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
lazykchyn

The FAA's 47,000 employees -- including nearly 15,000 controllers

There is the problem to many chiefs, and two few workers

April 18 2013 at 10:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to lazykchyn's comment
omgnojobs

BOYCOTT ALL AIRLINES ALTOGETHER UNTILL ALL ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS THAT OBAMY LET "BREAK" INTO AMERICA TO BOMB AMERICANS ARE DEPORTED. ! ~~>DEPORT ALL ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS THAT "BROKE" INTO AMERICA NOW. !

April 19 2013 at 5:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
goulding218

Lets cut wages for Congress...House of Representatives... the White House Staff... White House vacations...no freebies to non citizens... the common sence list goes on and on. Instead our administration continues to cut the working class thats paying for all their perks.

April 18 2013 at 8:44 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
drbuckles

As I remember rrusrjr2, our last president had an MBA and it didn't turn out so well did it.......? Comparing government to running a business or a home is just stupid talk for stupid people who never took a civic course, history course, or even worked in government. Most people have home loans and car loans, so they're actually running a deficit.................We started this country in debt and we always run a debt/deficit, it's only when Republicans the last 30 years ran the government that the debt grew to more than at any time in out history, and they claim they know how to run a business..............idiots

April 18 2013 at 8:07 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
rrusrjr2

People who run businesses laugh at this kind of 'tough' decision making. A mere 10% adjustment over two weeks in controller hours, surely could have been avoided if businessmen reviewed the matter. Then again, we have a president who can't even spell business, much less understand how to run one. The public should demand an independent audit of every sequestration adjustment made by Obama and his department heads, and that audit should be done by businessmen from private industries associated with each federal department.

April 18 2013 at 7:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mandmjlrscvca

The FAA should be turned over to the Air Force and tell the FAA employees to get off.

April 18 2013 at 7:40 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
anthdif

You expect me to believe that there are no other wasted programs, spending, particularly overseas that cannot be cut instead of creating havoc in air traffic? This is a ruse that typically has been a tactic of this administration. I think it applies to the term lame duck!!

April 18 2013 at 7:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Hi RON

Big Big joke on taxpayers... There is, I am sure, ample funds in their budget to maintain the traffic controllers. Some of the smaller airports need to be shut down anyway... Needs a BI-PARTISAN GROUP TO AUDIT THEIR BUDGET !!! PRES. IS SIMPLY TRYING TO SCARE US INTO GIVING HIM MORE TAX MONEY TO SPEND FOOLISHLY.

April 18 2013 at 6:36 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply